How to Start a Law Firm
Founder, Constellation Marketing
Being a lawyer is hard. Starting your own law firm is even harder. In the end, it may be the best decision you’ll ever make, but when you’re getting started, you are bound to hit a few bumps in the road.
Many attorneys dream of establishing their own law firms, however, with little experience in starting a business, it’s tough to know what first steps to take. To help you navigate the process, we’ve created a checklist with 5 steps on how to start a law firm.
Once you’re up and running, make sure to read our guide to managing a small law firm.
Step 1 – Create a Business Plan
Every successful business starts with a detailed business plan. This is where you’ll outline your mission and values to connect with your business goals.
Other things you should do and include in your business plan:
- Conduct a market analysis to figure out what gaps your law practice can serve, and analyze your competitors to see where your advantages can shine.
- Outline your financials to get a clear idea of what business expenses to expect and how much money you need to bring in to break even.
Step 2 – Choose Your Area of Law
Do you have a special place in your heart for family law or personal injury? Where are your strengths?
Start your law firm on the right foot by focusing on only one practice area. Focusing on one practice area makes it easier for you to hone your expertise and become the go-to attorney for your area of law.
It can be tempting to go the generic route as friends and family members ask for advice on various legal items. But when it comes to the law, most clients are looking for an expert, not a jack of all trades.
Be the master of one. It’ll help you quickly build up the credibility, experience, and trust clients seek for their case.
Step 3 – Grow Your Network
Word of mouth is still king for bringing in new clients. Update your social circle with word of your new law firm. Network with other practicing lawyers in your area and pick their brains on how they get their cases.
Don’t limit your circle to lawyers in your area of practice. It’s a good idea to meet other lawyers who practice in areas complementing your own. They can refer new clients your way if the case is not in their wheelhouse, and vice versa.
Step 4 – Build a Website
People don’t just turn to their friends and family when they need a lawyer or a law firm. They turn to Google. If prospective clients can’t find you with an online search, you’re losing out on work.
Clients are also more likely to trust and do business with attorneys who have a website. It shows your law practice is real and established. A website also gives you the chance to make a good first impression and share information about your education, experience, positive client testimonials, and more.
Step 5 – Join Local Organizations in Your Community
Most areas of the law have organizations for attorneys specializing in that field, such as AILA for immigration attorneys, NACDL for defense attorneys, etc.
Find an association in your area and connect with other lawyers who can help you gain your footing. But don’t stop there. Joining other local organizations – not necessarily legal ones – is a great way to build up your name in your community and meet new people. You might even meet your next client.
Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Law Firm
When you first start your law firm, it’s also incredibly valuable to know what NOT to do. Learning from the mistakes of established attorneys can give you a step ahead and avoid any pitfalls. You can also take a look at this article here.
Here are a few mistakes to avoid when starting a law firm:
- Not setting the right rates. You have to figure out how much you need to make to cover your personal and business expenses. One way to do this is to figure out your personal and business expenses for the year and divide your total payments by an hourly fee of your choice. That’s how many hours you’d need to bill to meet your expenses.
- Skipping out on digital marketing your law firm. In this age of digital media, an online presence is one of the easiest ways to bring in new clients. Digital marketing helps your law firm get in front of more eyes when people do a search online.
- Not choosing an address carefully. Your law firm should stick to one address. It makes it easier for clients to find you when you’re not constantly moving locations. Even this contributes to your credibility. People are more trusting of businesses with established and familiar locations.